Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Top Sneer

One hundred and sixty three years ago today, diplomats from Mexico, having been utterly defeated by a foreign aggressor, sat down at this desk and signed the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, giving half her sovereign territory to the United States. The anniversary has gone unremarked upon here today, eclipsed by a much greater insult: some limey goofballs went on the teevee and said Messicans is lazy.

We've never seen the show Top Gear, but but understand it's basically a bunch of lads masturbating over cool toys, which explains how it earned the requisite profile on the once-great news program 60 Minutes. A few nights ago, the doughy frat-boy hosts had this to say about a new Mexican-made sports car, the Mastretta:



Har har har har! From the people who brought you Benny Hill! To say it was crass, insensitive and deeply, deeply unfunny is merely to state the obvious. But the reaction in Mexico has been one of national apoplexy, led by the Mexican Ambassador to the United Kingdom himself, who issued a written demand for an apology from the British Broadcasting Corp. (notwithstanding the fact that, having personally been one of the targets of the show's mockery, he probably wasn't the best person to write the letter). This is response is as predictable as the show's attempt at humor, and as lazy as the hosts said Mexicans are.

We realize the danger of a bunch of gringos telling Mexicans to lighten up and shrug off a piece of ugly ethnic stereotyping, but we like to think that over the last 2,400 or so posts we've established our pro-Mexican credentials strongly enough to do just that. Seriously, amigos. Before this, it was the swine flu jokes, and before that, South Park. And Burger King's Texican, Paulina Rubio's flag desecration, Big Brother Australia's flag desecration, and countless other national outrages, some of which were helpfully collected in today's paper. And yet, somehow, the nation still stands.

Dear Mexico: you're a real country! You have the 12th-largest economy in the world! And oil! And a magnificent, centuries-old cultural history! Nobel Prizes! Astronauts! Your cuisine is better than Britain's and your humor every bit as asinine! You've even managed to produce a fairly bitchin' sports car! And yet, every time someone somewhere says something stupid, the entire country clutches its pearls and heads for the fainting couch. There are seismic instruments that are less sensitive.

You survived the loss of half your country to Uncle Sam. Is our faith misplaced, or will you be able to survive being mocked by a British tv show?

13 comments:

Gary Denness said...

I've tried to make the 'Mexicans are overly sensitive point', but it didn't go down well. Although it has to be said, I declared that I thought the clip was quite funny. Which probably didn't go in my favour.

In my defence, I missed one comment that was made on the show, which most certainly was offensive. I've also watched the show for decades - I kinda know what spirit most of their crap is supposed to be taken in. Whisky is best.

But the rest was just silly stuff. Nothing to take seriously. Forget about it. Move on.

If the tables were turned and the joke were on Britain? I'd either laugh, or ignore it. But I'd be genuinely embarrassed if a British ambassador went so far as to make an official complaint.

Gary Denness said...

Subscribing to comments.

Anonymous said...

I am sure the BBC immediately sent all of its writers to work on that apology.

Miss.E said...

I absolutely agree with this post. The first people to diminish their own spirits are the Mexican themselves - by the way, I'm a Mexican from Puebla. When there are real and genuine reasons to voice out anger, frustration or dissatisfaction, most Mexicans stay quiet. I've been a fan of Top Gear for four years now. Cool show but these lads can sometimes be very unforgiving to some visible minorities, and I'm not talking ethnic, they've also offended people who are physically or mentally challenged. It is what it is, as Burro Hall very aptly stated. A bunch of guys masturbating to new toys. What's the absolute worst thing you can do to people like that? Show indifference. Best way to piss off an English guy is to ask after they've proudly told you "I'm from England" to respond with "Sorry, what? Never heard of it."

Burro Hall said...

I actually did chuckle a little at the first part of it, because I thought the "cars reflect national characteristics" twist was a kind of clever (though I've known two Jaguar owners in my life, and both believed the car as an unreliable piece of shit; and Quantas probably won't be buying too many more Rolls Royce engines). But the question of whether or not it was actually funny seems beside the point - I'm sure Mexicans found it genuinely offensive. As an American I get sincerely offended at the stereotype of us as fat, insensitive, uncultured tourists speaking English loudly and slowly all over the world. But as Gary said, I'd die if the US ambassador wrote an angry letter to Italian TV complaining about such a thing. We put men on the moon, and helped win World War II - we can withstand being be laughed at from time to time.

Miss E is right - "When there are real and genuine reasons to voice out anger, frustration or dissatisfaction, most Mexicans stay quiet." But screaming at a tv show? That's easy. Could it be that Mexicans really are lazy? (Note to the Mexican ambassador to the US: I'm kidding!)

Cheryl Arredondo said...

The apology should be very sincere and then end with all of them running around in bras with Benny Hill music. It was rather snide but the British pride themselves on snideness.

EdAIG said...

I couldn't care less about Top gear frats, but there are a couple of things into this cocktail that makes it specially unsavory: the stunt contained a tirade against Mexican ambassador in the UK, and the BBC is UK's public (and we should stress the "public") television. It's not the same thing to watch crass humor on HBO than on PBS.

Burro Hall said...

I sure don't want to be in the position of defending these guys, but I don't think the tirade was directed personally against the ambassador, who I'm sure none of them could even name, but rather, they were making fun of the person whose job made him or her the most likely to file a complaint against the show (which, of course, he did). As for the BBC, it may be government-run, but the idea that the highest echelons of the British government are vetting the banter on Top Gear and endorsing everything they say as official UK Government policy is silly. Does being state-run put extra pressure on them to apologize? I do think so. But the issue (to me) isn't the BBC or its response, it's Mexico's reaction to the insult. If the argument is that the fact that Top Gear is a BBC show makes this an official diplomatic attack on Mexico by the UK, then Mexico is even more sensitive than I suggested.

EdAIG said...

Well, I would have expected a Public TV service to adhere to certain standards when it comes to the quality of its contents, specially from a country like the UK. Alas, the BBC is now undistinguishable of any private TV service bar the fact that the British government makes their subjects to pay for it with the "annual television licence fee" (and we complaint we have to pay "tenencia" on our cars, there they pay "tenencia" for their TV sets). British public sector seems to be managing its media content with the same standards they now manage their budget, now there you have a good definition of "feckless".

Gary Denness said...

The BBC isn't government run, per se, and is independent of those running the country. It's not a 'public' service in the way such services are in the rest of the world. It's status is rather complicated.

The only comment I thought was genuinely offensive was 'Imagine waking up in the morning and remembering you are Mexican'. That was over the line, although to be honest, I missed it the first few times I watched it.

The tirade against the ambassador? Since when did making fun of public officials become a no-go zone?? And if this is such a big issue for Mexicans, will they be demanding that the clown with the green hair on Mexican TV (I forget his name) , the one who routinely pokes fun at foreigners and foreign officials, start out on his apologies?

I personally and sincerely hope he doesn't...keep up the good fight!

A good measure of how much of a sense of humour people have, is how well they take it when they're on the receiving end, no matter how crass or stupid it may be. All humour has someone on the receiving end...

Anonymous said...

During the world cup, Mexican tv stereotyped the whole African continent as spear waving, rock throwing cavemen.

Top Gear is what it is. It is an irreverant motor show that takes the piss out of everything it sees crap in an industry full of ego. In all my years of watching, it has lampoon most nations including all of the home nations,(you should hear what they say about Mexico`s imperial master) lots of British celebrities and institutions and lots of British cars. None of which have taken it to the steps that Mexico has. Get over it Mexico. Or are you such a small insignifcant country that little jibes on a foreign tv show is enough to make you cry.

oh and btw... Benny Hill was never as popular in the UK as he was in the USA and many other countries. We thought he was shit.

Anonymous said...

It's refreshing to see the Brits have a country they can joke about, after so many years of being the subject of them.

Niels said...

My post on You Tube (minutes before they stopped all posts) reminded readers of the Good Old Days of British car manufacturing. If you owned a Rolls or a Jag you needed a fulltime mechanic. If you, for some reason, bought a less expensive Brit car, it turned to rust in 18 months, and you could sweep away the car. Only when furreners took over making cars in the UK could one buy them with any confidence.